We all have our ‘go-to’s’ and favourites, and these are my current ‘must haves’ for creating graphite drawings.
I’m still in the process of trying things out, but what you have here are the core items I will always use, the rest are things that I may add along the way!
So first up is the paper that I use – and for me, for basic sketches through to commissions, I am happy with the Strathmore Bristol Vellum. There is also a smooth version, but the vellum paper is more suited to graphite and charcoal. Strathmore have a short video explaining the difference here below.
I just love the way the pencils glide over it, allowing me to use the blending stumps to manipulate it about until it’s where I want it to be. I can build up soft layers as it has enough tooth to cope with that – particularly helpful when creating something like eyes.
Zooming in a bit, and you can see my gorgeous pencils that I adore.
The Faber Castell 9000 do most of the legwork, I tend to sketch out with the 2b and use that, along with the 4b, 5b, 6b and 8b to fill out the rest of it. This tin contains 12 pencils in total, so you can really cover the tonal spectrum. In between I use my blending stumps to even everything out.
When I have areas that I want to get really dark, I either use a black polychromos pencil or, as you can see in this pic, the Mars Lumograph pencils (mostly the 8b). The Mars pencils are carbon based and are great for reducing the shine that comes with using layers of dark graphite in certain areas. I don’t really like the effect of that shine (many artists do) so I prefer to minimise it where I can. Plus, I can get these areas really dark with this pencil.
The other set that I have quite enjoyed experimenting with on this piece, is the Wolffs carbon pencils. Again, these give a really good degree of darkness and are great for smudging about.
I love this thing! It was never designed as a drawing tool, it was initially (and is still used as) a safe box cutter. But then some clever artist came along, and in our quest to use anything to hand as an experimental tool, it was discovered that this is a lot kinder to paper and more effective than the X-acto style scalpel knives originally used (I still use mine for sharpening some of my pastel pencils). I got mine from Amazon originally, but there seems to be a lack of supply there now. You’ll find it over at Cult Pens or The Coloured Pencil Shop.
So it’s basically used for gently lifting out fine lines, which is great for details like whiskers and fur.. To be honest, I don’t use it an huge amount on the Vellum, but it comes into its own for me when using it on drafting film (which is also an amazing surface for graphite)
These tightly coiled, paper stumps are brilliant for blending – much better than fingers! Fingers can spread oils onto your work, so best to keep them off and away, the stumps are fantastic and even better when they start to get a bit grubby. I like to have a few well used ones to hand, as you can literally use them as a drawing tool in their own right when they are already full of graphite. If you want to clean them up, you can rub them on a sheet of sandpaper.
You’ll also notice in the picture that I have a brush there too. It’s just a soft paintbrush that I use, along with another small one that is more flat-ended, again just for subtle softening of pencil lines.
These are used for the obvious – erasing, but they are also brilliant for creating texture or highlights. I use them a lot when I am creating fur texture, so lots of little lines which I then shade around (I’m doing a video for this) There are 2 that I recommend and use, the first is the Tombow eraser which comes with replacement erasers, so good value. I use a sanded sheet to keep it clean and sharp and it does a really nice job.
The other pencil style eraser I use is the Koh-I-Noor eraser, which you can see pictured here, this is a recent discovery and I LOVE it. I’d go as far to say that I prefer it to the Tombow. I find I have more control over it and I can keep a precision point on it by sharpening it in a pencil sharpener. The downside to that, is that you can grind through it quite quickly!
So there you have it, a round up of my most favourite things when it comes to graphite drawing. I haven’t yet used graphite powder, so that is next on my list to try.
What items do you use? Have I missed any of your favourites? I’d love to know!
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